U.S. News: The 2013 Sequester

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Automatic spending cuts began in March 2013, impacting government spending in all areas.

2013 sequester

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On March 1, 2013, the sequester began. A set of automatic spending cuts, the sequester became a law under the Budget Control Act. The legislation was signed by President Obama back in 2011 in order to raise the debt ceiling and pressure Congress to determine a long-term deficit reduction plan. When the debt ceiling was raised in 2011, Congressional Republicans demanded that budget cuts be included in the Budget Control Act. The Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also referred to as the super committee, was then formed to implement the $1.2 trillion budget cuts from the deficit.

Super Committee Fails

However, the super committee failed to agree on the cuts. The responsibility then fell to Congress, but they failed to agree on how to implement the cuts as well. Therefore, the automatic spending cuts, which were never intended to go into effect, did on March 1, 2013.

The sequester involved $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over nine years which would be divided equally between defense and domestic spending. During the 2013 fiscal year, $85 billion in cuts went it effect. The sequester would not end until 2021.

Deeply Destructive

The sequester cut government spending across all areas, including health care, education, law enforcement, unemployment benefits, disaster relief, scientific research and more. The military would lose $550 billion in the cuts. However, certain specific programs would not receive any cuts, including veterans’ benefits, Pell grants, Social Security, Medicaid and some low-income programs.

On March 6, 2013, the House of Representatives passed a bill that enabled defense programs to adjust the sequester budget cuts. After signing an order that brought the sequester into effect, President Obama referred to the automated cuts as “deeply destructive.“ By the end of 2013, the impact of the sequester was already being felt. For the 2013-2014 school year, Early Head Start and Head Start Programs were forced to eliminate services for 57,000 kids due to cuts brought on by the sequester.

by Jennie Wood
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